A lesser-known hike in the Canadian Rockies will take you to two alpine lakes and summit views. Rockbound Lake Hike is a great day trip in Banff National Park.

If you’ve ever driven to Lake Louise, you noticed the long ridge of Castle Mountain on the right side. Who would have thought there is a big lake hiding behind it?

The Rockbound Lake Hike is a 17 km round trip with moderate elevation which makes it an amazing day trip to the mountains. You will earn those mountain views and even can enjoy a dip in the lake if you’re brave.

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Castle Mountain

More hiking trails in Banff

  • Healy Pass – takes you through the sea of wildflowers
  • Mount St. Piran – to see the famous Lake Louise from above
  • Aylmer Lookout – day trip, backpacking trip or bike & hike trip above Lake Minnewanka
  • Sulphur Mountain – you can hike up the hill and take the gondola down for free
  • Johnston Canyon – hike through the series of waterfalls to the colourful Ink Pots
  • Boom Lake – a fantastic and pristine location year-round
  • Glacier Lake – an off the beaten path along Icefields Parkway

Love hiking? Read our post 20 best hikes in Banff National Park.

Where is Rockbound Lake

The Rockbound Lake Trail is located near Lake Louise in Banff National Park, just 31 km west of the town of Banff.

The trailhead to Rockbound Lake Hike is on the right side of the Bow Valley Parkway, shortly after you pass the sign for Johnston Canyon. There is a parking lot with a kiosk, bear safety information and a map.

How to get to Rockbound Lake Trail

As is usual in the Canadian Rockies, you need to have a car to get to the trailhead. There is a shuttle bus going from Banff to Johnston Canyon, but that is still 5 km away.

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Views on the Bow Valley Parkway

Driving from Banff, you will take the Trans-Canada Highway and then exit to Bow Valley Parkway. It is a very popular spot for mountain sheep to snack on grass or lick the salt from the road. Another option is driving on the Trans-Canada Highway and turning right on the Castle Junction.

The Bow Valley Parkway is frequented by wildlife and therefore the speed limit is 60km/hour. If you drive early in the morning or later in the evening, you might see an elk or maybe even a bear from your car.

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Morant’s Curve on the Bow Valley Parkway, a popular spot for photographers

Rockbound Lake Hike

  • Distance: 17 km (22 km for bird’s eye view of the Rockbound Lake)
  • Elevation gain: 780 m
  • Difficulty: moderate (difficult if you continue above the lake)
  • Best time to go: late June to September

The trail can get quite muddy or be partially covered with snow in early spring. All the snow is usually gone by late June.

The first section of the trail starts easily going uphill through the forest on the old dirt road. Within 700 meters, you will pass the Silverton Falls intersection.

After about 6 km, you will reach a meadow, the flat section with Tower Lake. Once you get to the lake, keep right and cross the bridge to continue on the Rockbound Lake Trail. The switchbacks from here are steep but the views are very rewarding. You will see the lake from above, Castle Mountain on your left and Helena Peak on your right.

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Rockbound Lake

Shortly after you hike up the switchbacks, you will reach the second flat section where the Rockbound Lake sits. It’s surrounded by a rock wall and offers a great grassy lakeshore to take a break.

The crystal clear blue water is even more breathtaking when seen from above. Up until the lake, it is 8,5 km but you can continue another 2,5 km up the rock wall on the right. That is, in my opinion, a view worth hiking for.

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Rockbound Lake from above

A nice spot for lunch before you head back (and the mosquitos eat you alive). We’ve only met two other hikers who continued even further on the ledges of Castle Mountain.

I would only recommend going further if you have experience with scrambling and are carrying a helmet.

We highly enjoyed the Rockbound Lake Hike for its views and pristine landscapes.

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hiking down to the Rockbound Lake

Pros & cons of the Rockbound Lake Hike

Pros:

  • Two pristine alpine lakes
  • A year-round hike (use snowshoes in winter)
  • Option to hike above the lake and see it from above
  • Get away from the crowds of more popular hikes in the area
  • Accommodation nearby to start the hike early
  • Optional dip in the refreshing lake
  • A great crowd-free hike in autumn for larch season

Cons:

  • I honestly can’t think of anything 🙂

Tips for Rockbound Lake Hike

National park fees

To visit any national park in Canada, you are required to purchase a Park Pass (daily or yearly).

  • 10.50 CAD per person for a daily pass, 21 CAD for a group/family
  • 72.25 CAD per person for a yearly pass, 145.25 CAD for a group/family

The yearly Discovery Pass is valid for all National parks in Canada. You can purchase it at the gate when you enter the national park, in the Visitor’s Centre or online here.

Staying in Banff National Park

To have the most freedom and enjoy nature to the fullest while staying on a budget, we always recommend staying in the campgrounds. Banff National Park has many with picturesque scenery. Read our comprehensive guide about camping in Banff National Park for all camping info and lots of pictures of the campgrounds.

TIP
If you like adventurous trips, book a Smile Campervan from us and you don’t need to worry about any camping equipment or setting up a tent. You can comfortably sleep, cook and eat in the campervan.

Road closure

For seasonal road closures due to wildlife presence or avalanche dangers in Banff National Park, check out the report from Parks Canada.

Accurate road conditions can be checked here.

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common occurrence to see a deer on Bow Valley Parkway

Trail report

Before you head out, check current trail conditions on Trail Report from Parks Canada.

Packing list for Rockbound Lake Hike

Our hiking essentials include:

  • Paper map of the area and downloaded map of the hike on the phone
  • External battery for the phone (especially for using GPS on the phone)
  • Lifestraw water bottle with a filter so we can drink from anywhere
  • Extra snacks
  • Windproof & waterproof jacket (yes, in summer as well)
  • Fleece or down jacket as unexpected snowstorms happen in summer
  • My absolute favourite trail running shoes
  • Bear Spray

And a few other items as well. For a full list of our gear, check out our hiking packing list for summer in the mountains. You can see the full list with links to purchase our favourite gear on our Amazon page.

Bear safety

If you’re hiking in the Canadian Rockies, you’re hiking in a bear country. You should always carry a bear spray (can be purchased at Visitor’s Centre or outdoor stores), know when and how to use it and make noise while hiking (to let bears and other wildlife know that you’re there as to not scare them)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around bears.

We didn’t see any bears on our Rockbound Lake Hike but saw some signs they’re in the area. Therefore we always make noise and carry a bear spray, even in winter (some bears wander out of their hibernation).

*In the spirit of full disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We appreciate your support!

Our favourite hikes in the Rockies

Canmore & Kananaskis Country:

Kootenay National Park:

Yoho National Park:

Jasper National Park:

Travel guides for your trip to the Canadian Rockies


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About Maya Steiningerova

Heyo, I’m Maya! An adventure athlete currently living near the Canadian Rockies with my partner in crime Michal. I love running in the mountains, jumping in the ice cold lakes, mountain biking and trying not so common activities, such as mountaineering. By showing that an ordinary person can live an extraordinary life, my hope is to inspire you to live an adventurous life and provide you with tips and tools for your own adventure.